After reading the novel Catcher in the Rye, my English class had an essay. We had to write an extension of the play and have Holden meet Emily Dickinson and discuss one of her poems. I hope you enjoy.
I CONSIDERED walking all the way back to the hotel, but it was too far. I was feeling a little sick and I didn’t want to step in and out of another taxi cab, so I ducked into the first subway station I saw. On the way down the stairs, I saw something that drove me crazy. Someone had written “F*** You” on the wall of the stairwell. That made me mad as hell. I tried to rub it off, but that god damn sonovabitch has etched it into the concrete. He really did. Man that drove me crazy.
Anyway, because I didn’t have time to sit there and sand it out, I went down the stairs. I got to the bottom of the stairwell. It cost two dollars to ride the god damn subway. That drove me mad. Two whole dollars. I could buy enough drinks for a whole night with that kinda dough. Anyway I paid up and went down to the platform.
There weren’t too many people getting ready to take the subway at god knows what time I got to the station. I was just me and this creepy old guy with so many wrinkles I could barely see his eyes. Honest to God. I could not tell where his eyes were and which were just wrinkles. That killed me. There were also the two less talkative girls from the dance club at the hotel earlier that night. They were drunk as hell. They were falling over each other, laughing when the other said some simple phrase that wasn’t even a joke, like “Guess what?” or “Howdy”. It drove me crazy when people laughed when there wasn’t even a joke being said.
Anyway, before too long the subway showed up that was going to take me back to the hotel. The train stopped right in front of me and I went in the doors. Immediately it smelled like someone had just urinated all over the place. Anyway, there was a nice looking girl sitting alone on the subway. Not the kind of girl that you wanted to dance with, but the kind of girl that you feel you could sit next to and have an intelligent conversation with. So I sat next to her and the train started up again.
She was sitting very still and had a pile of papers on her lap. They looked like poems that had been written not long ago by someone. That reminded me of my teacher back at the Whooten School, Mr. Antolini. She was in the same position that he used to sit and grade the papers as the rest of the class took exams or wrote papers. He looked so drawn into the papers, you might think that he was going to jump into the pages. He never smiled towards the papers. He always had his “serious” face on. That killed me. He called it his “serious” face. It looked more like he was trying to go cross-eyed to tell you the truth.
She was very pretty. She really was. I glanced over one of the poems that were in her lap currently. It was pretty good, I was surprised. She was one of those people that you see who look too beautiful to be smart. But here she was, both a natural beauty, you could tell it was natural, and a poetic genius.
All of a sudden she picked up the poem and tore it up into a million pieces. Honestly she did. She just picked up one of the best poems I had ever read and tore it up right then and there.
“Whuddya do that for? That was pretty good,” I said.
She looked down at her next paper and said, “It was nothing. I’m nothing. What are you?”
All of a sudden, I thought back to Allie’s baseball mitt. That was the first line of one of the poems that he had written on it. I can still remember the poem now. It was called I’m Nobody. It was by Emily Dickinson. It was all about how she always wanted to be a nobody and despised how all the people tried to always be a somebody. I liked it. I really did. I felt like I had a connection with the theme. I looked down at the paper and saw that the same poem by Dickinson was sitting right there in front of her.
“You okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something,” she said.
“Yeah. I’m fine. Listen, where’d you get that poem?”
“It’s nothing. I just wrote it a while ago. I’m surprised I haven’t gotten rid of it.”
All of a sudden a wave of excitement crossed my mind. She was Emily Dickinson.
“You’re Emily Dickinson. Aren’t you?” I said.
“Well if you must know, yes I am. I’m the famous poet and blah blah…”
“Whaddya doin’ here? Shouldn’t you be at some party or dinner that is a tribute to all of your greatest poems?”
“Aren’t you a little old to be out this late kid? Do your parents know where you are?” she said.
It drives me crazy when people ask me those questions. Aren’t I old enough to make decisions on my own and all? Yes I am.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whaddya doin here, hey? I mean on the subway and all?” I was dying to know what the hell she was doing away from the glamorous life.
“I’m leaving. I hate the people that try to be something that they aren’t. They always try to be famous or ask questions of me about how I got to be where I was today. I’m sick of it. So I’m leaving. Going west to find a safer, more secluded place to live,” she said.
“Yeah. People in New York can get pretty phony sometimes.”
I couldn’t believe that one of the greatest poets of all time was sitting next to me and agreed that the world was full of too many phonies. It killed me. It honestly did.
The rest of the ride was spent with constant conversation. We continued to talk about her poetry. I even mentioned Allie’s baseball mitt to her and she was flattered that she had such a young admirer. To tell you the truth, I talked so much that I almost missed the stop for the hotel. I got up and said the least phony goodbye of my life. I was very proud of that goodbye.
I got back to the hotel and lay down on my bed. God. I had just met Emily Dickinson. I still couldn’t believe it.